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NASW Science in Society Winner, 2015

September 14th, 2015

I am deeply honored to accept the 2015 Science in Society award from the National Association of Science Writers. From the NASW press release:

“Why Nothing Works” was published in the July/August 2014 issue of Discover. The article explores the evolving scientific understanding of the placebo effect, in which a sham treatment with no medical value nonetheless has significant clinical effects. Some practitioners dismiss the effects as irrelevant, and others blame such effects on neurosis. However, as the article explains, scientists are increasingly recognizing the placebo response as an authentic neurochemical reaction in the brain. The article also details how imaging studies have raised the possibility that the effect will soon be understood, perhaps even used in clinical practice. The judges commented that “It can be hard to explain the placebo effect and its Janus-like impact on medical research — including its contrary sibling, the nocebo effect. It confounds results of clinical trials yet also holds the potential to be harnessed as ‘the brain’s inner pharmacy,’ as Vance so artfully put it.” The judges said that Vance’s “masterful command of metaphor and vivid anecdote knit an excellent tapestry of the science behind the placebo effect, the ethical issues it raises, and its implications for improved medical care.” –